Cambodian Premier League club Spark FC will struggle to survive in the top flight if they don’t find sponsorship soon says club manager Vann Dara, despite a good showing in the season so far and players content with their treatment
Tep Phany / FFC
Spark FC players line up for a team photo before their Cambodian Premier League game against Khemara Keila June 14.
Spark boss appeals for help
Newly promoted club Spark FC may struggle to continue in the Cambodian Premier League (CPL) unless new sponsors are found soon, club manager Vann Dara stated in telephone and email correspondence. The team has been a revelation this season, currently lying seventh in a tightly packed table that sees the five teams above them all within a point of one another.
"My club is small, and we are playing in the Cambodia Premier League for the first time," Vann Dara said.
"We cannot compare with Phnom Penh Crown, Naga Corp or Royal Sword [Preah Khan Reach, who have] big sponsors."
The manager is deeply concerned about the future of the five-year-old club, saying that if no sponsors come forward, players may have to change loyalty to the highest bidder during the forthcoming transfer window starting July 7.
Former Maharathi University player Vann Dara runs Spark FC single-handedly, with limited funding coming from Spark Entertainment Centre, hence the team name, amongst others. "Finance for sports in Cambodia is limited, and not many sponsors are willing to invest in it," Vann Dara continued. "The club has been taking care of the welfare of the players, and if you [look at] other clubs, not many take care of their players like my club.
"None of my players dare complain to me because they know I give them all the attention they need," the manager boasted.
Vann Dara was backed up by his team's leading goal scorer, Nigerian-born Prince Justine. "To be honest, [Spark FC] have been nice to us," he admitted.
The recent imbroglio over foreign players' visas was quickly dismissed, with Vann Dara putting the blame on the players who came into Cambodia on tourist visas, making it difficult to get an extension. "This problem is not only in my club, other clubs have the same problem, and we try to solve it with the federation," he declared. Justine, who himself has visa issues, concurred with his manager, saying that affected foreign players would most likely use the mid-season break to leave the country and re-enter on business visas.
Vann Dara blamed the global economic crisis for the lack of sponsorship, coupled with the fact that his side does not presently include any big-name players. "My players are young and have no experience in the league," he noted. "I cannot provide them with accommodation now, as we don't have the budget, but I'm trying to look for sponsors to help them with that," he said, maintaining that player salaries are paid on time.
Students shoot some hoops
This Saturday sees the start of the Cambodian College Basketball Tournament held at the indoor hall of Olympic Stadium, with games played over twelve days culminating in a final and award ceremony July 8. Five boys teams and four girls teams, comprised of Phnom Penh universities and other organizations, will compete for this year's trophy as part of a program by the Cambodian Basketball Federation to scout for players to represent Cambodia in future competitions, such as the SEA Games. Others competitions organised by the federation include high school games, regional tournaments and a national contest. The 2009 college game will feature five boys' teams and four girls' team.
The boys' teams are from Norton University, Build Bright University, Cambodia Mekong University, the University of Technology, and Human Resources University. The girls' teams include Build Bright University, Human Resources University, Mith Samlanh (a street children charity organization) and a selected visiting team from Stung Treng.
According to Oum Sophannaro, a official for the federation and an internationally licensed referee, this year's competition promises to be fierce. "It's going to be tough this year," he enthused.
Title holders Norton University will tip off against the University of Technology at 2:30pm Saturday. That match will be followed by Build Bright Uni versus Cambodia Mekong University.